N.J. Adjuster, Pair Charged with Homeowners Fraud

February 27, 2003

New Jersey Acting Attorney General Peter Harvey announced that a Monmouth County public insurance adjuster, a homeowner, and another person were named in a State Grand Jury indictment charging them with attempted theft by deception. The charges are related to allegations that the three took part in inflating a homeowner’s insurance claim.

According to Vaughn McKoy, First Deputy Director of the Division of Criminal Justice, Steven Budge of Woodshore West in Cliffwood Beach, a licensed public insurance adjuster, his uncle, Frank Land of Highland Lakes, Sussex County, and Budge’s brother, John Budge of Aberdeen, were charged with third degree attempted theft by deception. Crimes of the third degree carry a maximum punishment of five years in state prison and a criminal fine of $15,000. Additionally, the defendants face the possibility of the imposition of civil insurance fraud fines pursuant to the Insurance Fraud Prevention Act. Moreover, the indictment will be referred to the Department of Banking and Insurance for action as may be appropriate with respect to Steven Budge’s Public Insurance Claims Adjuster license.

According to McKoy, the indictment returned by the State Grand Jury alleges that on or about Dec. 12, 2000, a house, owned by Frank Land in Vernon, sustained damage to its roof. The roof was damaged as the result of winds that caused a large tree limb to fall on the roof. According to the indictment, Steven Budge, John Budge, and Frank Land allegedly inflicted further damage to the roof in order to inflate the homeowner’s insurance claim to Liberty Mutual Insurance Company. The investigation revealed that Steven Budge allegedly submitted an appraisal to repair the roof to Liberty Mutual which was allegedly inflated by approximately $60,000. Liberty mutual, suspecting fraud, denied the claim, and referred the case to the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor for further investigation.

The indictment was handed up to Mercer County Superior Court Judge Linda R. Feinberg, the Assignment Judge in charge of the State Grand Jury. The case will be venued in Sussex County where the defendants will be ordered to appear in Court to answer the charges on a date to be determined.

“The indictment alleges that a homeowner, a licensed public insurance adjuster and another person intentionally inflated a homeowner’s insurance claim. While public insurance adjusters must represent insureds with respect to insurance claims, they must do so ethically and honestly or risk an insurance fraud investigation and possible prosecution,” Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Greta Gooden Brown commented.

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